By Karla del Rosal, Assistant Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning of Southern Methodist University.
I am a teacher educator. Like most educators, I have a set of fundamental goals: to be responsive to students’ needs, to offer meaningful and engaging instruction, and to ensure that my work has a positive impact on the life of my students. Last month, I had the extraordinary opportunity to travel to a remote island in the Pacific and to say “Check! Check! Check!” to each of these goals.
From April 18–22, 2016, I traveled to the Galapagos Islands with a team of 23 educators from Ecuador and the United States to offer professional development to about 270 K-12 teachers that work in the Islands. We were part of the Education for Sustainability in Galapagos Program, which is an international public-private initiative led by the Ecuador Ministry of Education, the Galapagos Governing Council, Galapagos Conservancy, and the Scalesia Foundation. The Center for Research and Evaluation (CORE) at my home institution — Southern Methodist University — is serving as program evaluator.
For five days on the islands of Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal, a very committed group of nearly 300 educators — local teachers and national and international trainers — collaborated in an extraordinary event: the first week of teacher professional development offered in Galapagos in many years, and the first week of a five-year teacher training effort in the Islands! We were all united by the goal of making a positive and a lasting difference in the social and environmental development of this unique natural paradise through the power of K-12 education.
It was a joy to see how the Galapagueño teachers arrived very early each day, engaged in animated conversations, welcoming us with big smiles and warm greetings. Like them, we (the facilitators) arrived excited and very hopeful about the sessions to be presented each day. After these friendly beginnings, each work day passed surprisingly fast.
While it might sounds like a cliché, the teachers and trainers truly learned a lot from one another. All the facilitators were passionate about sharing what they knew and also eager to learn from the Galapagueño teachers. Likewise, Galapagueño teachers were always open to new ideas and willing to openly discuss their practices. Throughout each eight-hour day, the Galapagueño teachers were always paying attention, participating in activities, collaborating with each other, reflecting on their practices, and learning a lot…and as a facilitator, I was doing the exact same thing. It was a “two-way” enriching experience.
At the end of each day, our group of facilitators could not stop talking about the level of engagement and the dedication of the Galapagueño teachers. We were very touched by the teachers’ gratitude for having the opportunity to strengthen their skills and to grow as professionals, and were always excited about returning to the training site the next day.
My experience in Galapagos allowed me to complete my “educator checklist.” We responded to the needs of K-12 Galapagueño teachers: check! Galapagueño teachers found the training meaningful and engaging: check! I am confident that our collaboration as educators will have a positive impact on Galapagueño teachers and their students, their exercise of informed citizenship, and their care for the special place they have the privilege to call home: the Galapagos Islands: check!
Karla del Rosal is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning of Southern Methodist University. She holds a Ph.D. in Education from the Educational Equity and Cultural Diversity program at the University of Colorado Boulder. Karla is a former classroom teacher and has taught in bilingual and dual language classrooms in Texas and Colorado. Karla is a member of the program’s Literacy Team, whose activities are possible thanks to funding from the Tinker Foundation. All photos © Galapagos Conservancy.
Read part 2 of this blog series: Engaging Teachers and Students as Problem Solvers.
For more information on the Education for Sustainability in Galapagos Program, contact Richard Knab.